13:07 PM

The Great Water Fluoridation Debate & The Role of Oral Health

By Dr. Michael Monopoli, Director of Policy and Programs, DentaQuest Foundation

Water fluoridation, or the controlled adjustment of fluoride levels in a community water supply to reduce tooth decay, continues to spark debate across the nation as decision makers and constituents face tight budget and priority shifts. In the debate on whether to eliminate fluoride from community water sources, the effectiveness of water fluoridation to improve oral health has played a major role. Recently, researchers from University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Dentistry and University of Adelaide issued a new study in the Journal of Dental Research that is changing the conversation.

This population-level study found adults who spent more than 75 percent of their lifetime living in a community with water fluoridation had significantly less tooth decay than those who had lived in one for less than 25 percent of their lifetime. Although fluoridation was previously thought to primarily benefit children who were raised drinking fluoridated water, this study shows the benefits for all ages. We hope this evidence, along with other current findings, will strengthen our understanding of the preventive effects of fluoride on oral health and reinforce the need for communities to continue to invest in keeping fluoride in community water.

DentaQuest stands behind water fluoridation as an effective and safe way to prevent dental decay. The DentaQuest Foundation is supporting community-based strategies to promote community water fluoridation through our Community Water Fluoridation Initiative. We believe, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association, and many other organizations, that community water fluoridation is one of the most cost-effective means of preventing dental caries.

As an enterprise committed to improve the oral health of all, we are concerned by the growing number of communities debating whether to end long-term community water fluoridation programs, reversing a generation of improvements to America's oral health. It is penny-wise and pound foolish. Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children; it is 5 times more common than asthma. And it’s not just children. 51 million adults suffer from mouth pain at least twice a year. Americans spend more than $106 billion (2010) on oral care; 30 million don’t get treatment. That includes 1 in 5 children. All this despite the fact that dental disease is largely preventable! Community water fluoridation is an important first step.

Advocate in your community for water fluoridation. To learn more and get the facts on water fluoridation’s impact on oral health, visit http://www.ilikemyteeth.org/.